Dictating to the machine: Voice-activated computer technology

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English Education

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In the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Captain Scott sits down in front of a twentieth century personal computer - primitive tech- nology to him - and addresses it pleasantly "Computer!" The PC does not respond. "Computer?" McCoy hands Scotty the mouse, "Try this." Scotty croons into it like a microphone. "Computer . . ." "Look," their twentieth century friend growls, "just use the keyboard." "Ah, the keyboard," sighs Scotty, "how quaint."

Teachers, writers, and teachers of writing - especially those of us who are not gifted at the keyboard - have dreamed of the technology that Scotty takes for granted: machines that hear the master's voice. If only there were some way to make words appear on the page or the screen as quickly as they appear in the mind, what a boon that would be to fluent composing. For this reason, many resort to the dictaphone.

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